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Old 02-13-2020, 10:58 AM   #1
25' '77 Tradewind
 
1977 25' Tradewind
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Are tankless water heaters worth the price

Has anyone replaced their Atwood 6 gallon water heater with a Suburban tankless (or any other brand)? Is it worth the price? Any issues? We have one in our house so I know how great they are, but just wondering if anyone has had any negative issues with them in a trailer. Thank you
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Old 02-13-2020, 11:10 AM   #2
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One obvious, if minor, issue is that it decreases your water capacity by about six gallons. This is no problem at all if you are camping at hook-ups, but if you are boon-docking, it could factor into your duration depending on how much water you use.

That's a decrease of 20% if you have a 30 gallon fresh water tank.

Indeed, it gets to the heart of how you "camp;" when you are boon docking, people tend to live a bit more conservatively when eating, drinking, showering, etc, because supplies (and grey tank) are literally limited.

The key advantage most appreciated with a tankless water heater is the ability to take long showers with "endless" hot water -- not something most do whilst boon docking, but can easily be done at hook-ups. Boondocking camping showers are done navy style, (wet, wash, rinse). So it boils down to your camping style, and to a lesser degree, the camping style of prospective buyers of your trailer whenever you decide to sell.

Personally, as a life-long camper, I found deep and abiding value in the camping experience as an exercise in minimalism and learning to appreciate and be more mindful of the resources we use and how we impact the environment and others around us. But I know others want all the convinces of home whilst "camping" hence Airstream.
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Old 02-13-2020, 12:31 PM   #3
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Are tankless water heaters worth the price

That six gallons of Ďextraí water is basically unreachable unless you go outside and open the water heater drain plug. Then it dribbles all over the side of the Airstream. Itís rendered useless at that point because itís now full of the dust and junk in the bottom of the water heater enclosure. I know mine is not particularly clean or sanitary.

Personally I donít miss the extra 40-some pounds of unreachable water in the heavy old Atwood tank-type water heater. It was never usable anyway. The tank-type water heater is also designed to feed cold water in the bottom and hot out near the top, to make sure water stays in it to keep it from overheating or burning out when dry. You canít pump it out easily anyway.

The Ďextra six gallonsí is IMHO, nothing note than a boondocking myth.

My PrecisionTemp 500 series tankless water heater works just fine for Navy showers. DW, of course, likes her hotel showers occasionally. That only happens on hookups.

Last time we totally boondocked the cleanliness problem was neatly handled by using baby wipes, appropriately gathered and packed back out. Gets you clean enough. The dogs are carefully tended so they wonít be tempted to find something interesting to roll in and need a bath.

We routinely pack out all our trash, and police the campsite for any and all MOOP as a matter of long standing habit from our years of being a Scout leader, so we minimize environmental impact anyway.

The few dishes we use are washed using three dish pans. Water boiled on the stove in a teakettle. First pan to rinse and scrape, second to wash with a few drops of Dawn dishwashing soap and last to sanitize with a few drops of bleach in the very hot, almost boiling water. Long stainless steel tongs are necessary to fish out the dishes, itís that freaking hot. Aluminum plates, pots, and pans dry real quick when you do this.

The used cooled water gets carefully discarded at a safe distance from camp in a hole in the ground. The hole gets filled in when we leave. If you do it right you only use a few quarts of water for all the dishes.
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Old 02-13-2020, 05:29 PM   #4
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You bring up a very good point about draining the conventional RV water heater. After all of these years, why hasn’t anyone invented a good way to drain the water heater without it spilling all over the place?

Has anyone fashioned some sort of adapter hose with a valve for the water heater?

The extra 6 gallons comes at fill time. The freshwater tank remains at full capacity, plus your 6 gallons in the hot water heater. You could totally mitigate this by bringing along an extra 5 gallon water jug, however.
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Old 02-13-2020, 11:05 PM   #5
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To be honest...we don't think much about it.🤔

We turn on the WH for about 2hrs at breakfast and or when a dog...or human needs cleaning, that it's hot is the important thing, how it got that way, not so much. 🤓

SNIP...."Has anyone fashioned some sort of adapter hose with a valve for the water heater?"

YEP.... Fill tank, open pressure valve, add air hose, adjust pressure and BLOW.
Flush done.
(please note milk carton)👍


Bob
🇺🇸
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Old 02-14-2020, 06:12 AM   #6
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I bought a Precision Temp 500 back in 2008 and I love it. A few years ago I was on the road for three weeks, including 8 nights of "boon docking" at the Oshkosh airshow. Only used one bottle of propane for the entire trip.
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Old 02-14-2020, 06:52 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmkrum View Post
That six gallons of ‘extra’ water is basically unreachable unless you go outside and open the water heater drain plug. Then it dribbles all over the side of the Airstream.
Can this really be true? The way I saw it was that having 6 gallons of heated water would allow me to push up to 6 gallons (maybe bit more with recovery) but the more I think about it, if I push 6 gallons from my fresh tank to get those 6 gallons out of my water heater, then you are right, I've still used the same 6 gallons, but if I don't fill that tank, I'm actually out 12 gallons, so yes and no?! So I guess filling the water heater isn't a bad idea, but it is sort of misleading that you have 6 extra gallons....never really gave that a thought before this thread.

I looked at tankless a few years back. I never really found a direct drop in. There were always fitting modifications that were needed. If I could remove my factory installed water heater, and with minor plumbing and zero body/mount modifications, I might consider a tank less unit, if my existing heater went south. When it finally does break, is there such a beast as a tankless water heater that can fit in the exact same space as my existing water heater?
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Old 02-14-2020, 07:31 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by panamerican View Post
Can this really be true? The way I saw it was that having 6 gallons of heated water would allow me to push up to 6 gallons (maybe bit more with recovery) but the more I think about it, if I push 6 gallons from my fresh tank to get those 6 gallons out of my water heater, then you are right, I've still used the same 6 gallons, but if I don't fill that tank, I'm actually out 12 gallons, so yes and no?! So I guess filling the water heater isn't a bad idea, but it is sort of misleading that you have 6 extra gallons....never really gave that a thought before this thread.

I looked at tankless a few years back. I never really found a direct drop in. There were always fitting modifications that were needed. If I could remove my factory installed water heater, and with minor plumbing and zero body/mount modifications, I might consider a tank less unit, if my existing heater went south. When it finally does break, is there such a beast as a tankless water heater that can fit in the exact same space as my existing water heater?

Yes, the Precision RV 550 fits in the footprint of the Atwood 6 gallon WH. A bit pricey but if it lasts for at least 5 years, then every year after that is extra the way I look at it. We've had our home tankless for 10 years with annual (or every other year) cleaning we've never had an issue. I just don't want to buy one of these very often.

As far as the plumbing mods, I'm looking at replacing my copper with PEX. Copper is good but not very forgiving and since I have to modify for a new heater, might as well replace while I got the bed out.

thanks for your reply- LS
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Old 02-14-2020, 07:35 AM   #9
25' '77 Tradewind
 
1977 25' Tradewind
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skyguyscott View Post
One obvious, if minor, issue is that it decreases your water capacity by about six gallons. This is no problem at all if you are camping at hook-ups, but if you are boon-docking, it could factor into your duration depending on how much water you use.

That's a decrease of 20% if you have a 30 gallon fresh water tank.

Indeed, it gets to the heart of how you "camp;" when you are boon docking, people tend to live a bit more conservatively when eating, drinking, showering, etc, because supplies (and grey tank) are literally limited.

The key advantage most appreciated with a tankless water heater is the ability to take long showers with "endless" hot water -- not something most do whilst boon docking, but can easily be done at hook-ups. Boondocking camping showers are done navy style, (wet, wash, rinse). So it boils down to your camping style, and to a lesser degree, the camping style of prospective buyers of your trailer whenever you decide to sell.

Personally, as a life-long camper, I found deep and abiding value in the camping experience as an exercise in minimalism and learning to appreciate and be more mindful of the resources we use and how we impact the environment and others around us. But I know others want all the convinces of home whilst "camping" hence Airstream.
Thank you for your reply and noted. We are planning on easing into the boondocking (I have to train my wife and daughter on how to camp off grid- )
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Old 02-14-2020, 07:56 AM   #10
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Price aside, you just have to decide if you want a tankless heater.

Personally, I do not want one. Looked at them for the trailer twice, replaced the 6 gal Atwood in both trailers with new 6 gal Atwoods. I find it nice to have a little warm water while traveling without running anything. I am okay with the 6 gallon shower. I do not run grey water valve open when hooked up.
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Old 02-14-2020, 09:27 AM   #11
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At least with the Precision Temp 500 there is a two second delay in ignition to ensure water flow. If navy showers are an important part of your camping experience you will get a cold burst every time you stop and start flow. That few seconds feels like a long time when it is cold outside.
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Old 02-14-2020, 09:38 AM   #12
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We have the Girard tankless brand. Works great under normal circumstances. However, I like trickle showers when dry camping. Just enough water running to keep the goose bumps off while washing. The Girard goes in to ďover temperature shut down, with a trickle flow, leaving me in cold water. Itís the only thing we donít like. Itís start up water flow is pretty instantious.
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Old 02-14-2020, 10:18 AM   #13
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Am I correct in assuming that with a tankless heater you also donít have a mixing valve? Thereís another benefit as itís a frequent failure point.
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Old 02-14-2020, 10:29 AM   #14
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Plumber here. To answer your question: No! I have yet to find a tankless WH that is as reliable as a conventional tank type.
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Old 02-14-2020, 10:57 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by daleyocum View Post
Am I correct in assuming that with a tankless heater you also donít have a mixing valve? Thereís another benefit as itís a frequent failure point.
Will still need a mixing valve. The water coming from a tankless water heater is just hot water.
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:02 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by tbashin View Post
Will still need a mixing valve. The water coming from a tankless water heater is just hot water.
Seems odd to heat the water up to super hot just to mix it back down to normal hot water temperatures. Maybe thatís to reduce the flow inside the heater?
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:37 AM   #17
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Atwood and others do make 6 gallon water heaters that fit in the space of conventional 6 gal heaters but that super heat the water and pass it thru a mixing valve so that, according to them, you effectively get 9 gal of hot water for less money and complexity than tankless

However, I donít see how this would be different from you raising the thermostat and mixing the temp yourself at the shower
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:58 AM   #18
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Yes, with a Precision Temp 550. The opening is about 2-3" lowerer than than Atwood, but no problem. Works great as long as you have gas, water and electricity. Go through your water system to insure capability of minimum 0.4 gpm.
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Old 02-14-2020, 12:14 PM   #19
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Are tankless water heaters worth the price

Quote:
Originally Posted by daleyocum View Post
Seems odd to heat the water up to super hot just to mix it back down to normal hot water temperatures. Maybe thatís to reduce the flow inside the heater?


Uh, no. The mixing valve is only for certain Atwood water heaters that make very hot water mixed down a bit cooler to get longer hot water flow than six gallon tank normally produces. The mixing valve is IMHO, just another maintenance problem with Atwood conventional water heaters. My OEM Atwood did not have a mix valve and ran out of hot water all the time before I got rid of it and installed a PrecisionTemp tankless. Fits into the same hole, more or less. Mine was 1/4 inch not tall enough, which was easily solved. Airstream cut the original hole a bit too tight.

A stand alone tankless water heater produces hot water at a regulated, fixed temperature as long as you have water flow, 12 volt power turned on, and propane. Absolutely do not need a mixing valve with any tankless water heater.

The Alde systems have a mixing valve built in, as I understand them. They use it for anti-scald safety.
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Old 02-14-2020, 01:06 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by skyguyscott View Post
Atwood and others do make 6 gallon water heaters that fit in the space of conventional 6 gal heaters but that super heat the water and pass it thru a mixing valve so that, according to them, you effectively get 9 gal of hot water for less money and complexity than tankless

However, I don’t see how this would be different from you raising the thermostat and mixing the temp yourself at the shower
The difference is they don't want to get sued by someone too stupid to adjust the temp properly.
EDIT: Makes some sense for protecting children.
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